Let me start by saying, my preparation for this race was definitely on point. I rested hard, when possible (no easy feat with a sick/teething 10-month-old). I really nourished my body to the best of my ability without actually tracking my food. I pushed hard to go fast with some runs, and pushed hard to really slow down on other runs. As a result, I went in with pretty fresh legs, good fuel, and overwhelmed with the panic of failure. To note, I almost always begin a race or task feeling like I am going to fail, I see no reason to let fear stop me.
This was my third half marathon, and it was the Goldilocks of races for me- it was neither the biggest, nor the smallest half marathon I have run. It was just right. I did the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon two years ago, and it was big enough that there may have been pacers running it, but I did not notice because I was not tracking my pace at the time. (See my thoughts on pacing here).
My goal going into this race was to run under 1:45 and I thought that would be achievable but difficult. I cozied right up to the 1:45 pacer at the start line and chatted with her for a minute or two. She let me know that she would be pacing just a little faster, finishing around 1:44. She said she would be pacing at 7:58. For the first few miles of the race, having her there was really getting in my head. She was ahead of me for the first three miles and I kept thinking, “if I can’t stick with her now, I won’t be able to finish the race where I want.” I had to remind myself that each of her miles would be the same: 7:58. She would likely only be a few seconds in either direction for the whole race. I, on the other hand, typically pick up speed as the race goes on.
For the first 6 miles I mostly paced between 7:53-7:58 for each mile. I was staying consistent and feeling good. It took me about 4 miles to really find my pace and my groove. This was an out and back course, so the turn around was at 6.55 miles. Mile 5 went super fast – I blinked and it was done. Around the 5-mile marker the leaders were passing by on their way back. This is where I began to count the other women ahead of me. It was a small enough race I thought it would be a good goal if I could be one of the top 10 women (I don’t know about you, but I have a main goal going into a race, then reassess and add mini goals throughout the race).
I counted that I was the 11th female (although I didn’t count the pacers, so I miscounted) and got excited that the top 10 was within reach. There was a woman in my sights and I knew I could catch up within the next 6.55 miles. I told myself to slow down, but there was too much adrenaline after seeing all of the faster runners pass by, so I picked up my pace a little, and caught up to and passed her by mile 7. I was feeling good and picked up the pace slightly for the next two miles. There were some hills in mile 9 that finally slowed me back down.
The second half of the race is essentially a blur, and I only remember going up the two small hills, and someone yelling positive reinforcement from the street as they were grilling steak and peppers (I cannot make these things up!). As I entered the last mile, I was feeling confident that I was well ahead of my goal, and I pushed to finish out fast (though, it was not my fastest mile). There were no volunteers at one of the turns so I ended up going the wrong way for a few feet, but found my way back to the course. The end of the course had two really sharp turns, one within the last 10th of a mile, so it made it hard to really sprint at the end, which I found frustrating. Overall, I loved the run, being along the water with the rolling hills of the country on the other side.
Mile 1 – 7:53
Mile 2 – 7:55
Mile 3 – 7:43
Mile 4 – 7:53
Mile 5 – 7:52
Mile 6 – 7:52
Mile 7 – 7:37
Mile 8 – 7:44
Mile 9 – 8:02
Mile 10 – 7:58
Mile 11 – 8:03
Mile 12 – 7:52
Mile 13 – 7:38
The official results had me at a 7:51 pace. Miles 5 and 11 had the most elevation gain, and the total gain was 195 feet – it was a pretty flat course. I ended up placing 5th in my age group and 12th overall female (it appears to be out of 311 women). It was definitely a fun race, and I trained well. After experimenting so much, I think I will be set up for successful marathon training!